Ex-Justice Minister Liao mulls running for Taipei County chief

The China Post staff

Former Justice Minister Liao Cheng-hao yesterday said he may soon make a decision on whether to run for Taipei County chief after Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan reportedly promised to support him. Lien met with Liao yesterday behind closed doors, reportedly asking the former KMT member to run for the leadership of Taiwan’s biggest county. The KMT has reached an agreement with the People First Party to jointly field administrator candidates in six cities and counties, including Taipei County, during the year-end elections. But they have yet to name the candidate for the northern county. Liao, who won fame and wide respect as an anti-corruption fighter during his stint as justice minister 96-98, stands as a strong threat to incumbent Commissioner Su Tsen-chang’s re-election bid.

Following his meeting with Lien, Liao, who did not respond to the former ruling party’s membership re-registration early this year, told reporters that even if he ran, he would campaign as an independent. Please see LIAO on page

Now a law professor at the Chinese Culture University, Liao said he had never thought of rejoining the KMT or any other political party. The former justice minister Liao broke with the KMT during last year’s presidential poll when he openly supported James Soong, who then quit the party to mount an independent campaign against Lien. But Liao stressed that he still maintains good relations with Lien and many KMT officials. Liao is expected to meet with PFP Chairman James Soong before making up his mind.

But it is not yet certain whether Liao’s support for Soong last year would be repaid, as the cooperation deal is facing strong obstacles from the ranks of both the KMT and PFP. PFP spokesman Hsieh Kung-ping yesterday denied that it was already a closed deal with the KMT to jointly nominate Liao. Hsieh insisted that the party’s deputy secretary general, Chin Ching-sheng, has already officially notified the party of his intention to run for Taipei County commissioner, and everything still requires negotiations. Responding to the possible rivalry from Liao, Chin was quoted as maintaining that he would never back out. Chin said the nomination process must be based on public opinion and inter-party negotiations. On the KMT side, strong resistance has come from Legislator, Lin Jih-jia, who has been as firm as Chin to run for the Taipei County administrator seat. Lin said as the opposition camp could only field one candidate, or face defeat, an opinion poll should be held to settle the candidacy. He said he would never accept any other solution to the dispute than an opinion poll.

He promised to give up the campaign if he lost in the opinion poll, but he said if that was the case, he would not play second fiddle on the opposition ticket.

Incumbent Commissioner Su gave a low-profile response, saying he had no say in the candidacy problem within the opposition camp. Su’s aides were quoted as saying that the incumbent had expected Liao to be the contender in the year-end poll.